Hispanics now form the largest US minority, approaching 15 percent – about 45 million – of a total population of about 300 million. They're projected by the Pew Research Center to swell to 127 million in 2050 – 29 percent of a total population of 438 million. Their experience in the United States recapitulates Latin America's culturally shaped underdevelopment. For example, the Hispanic high school dropout rate in the US is alarmingly high and persistent – about 20 percent in second and subsequent generations. It's vastly higher in Latin America.
Samuel Huntington was on the mark when he wrote in his latest book "Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity": "Would America be the America it is today if it had been settled not by British Protestants but by French, Spanish, or Portuguese Catholics? The answer is no. It would not be America; it would be Quebec, Mexico, or Brazil."
In "The Americano Dream," Mexican-American Lionel Sosa argues that the value system that has retarded progress in Latin America is an impediment to upward mobility of Latino immigrants. So does former US Rep. Herman Badillo, a Puerto Rican whose book, "One Nation, One Standard," indicts Latino undervaluing of education and calls for cultural change.
The progress of Hispanic immigrants, not to mention harmony in the broader society, depends on their acculturation to mainstream US values. Efforts – for example, long-term bilingual education – to perpetuate "old country" values in a multicultural salad bowl undermine acculturation to the mainstream and are likely to result in continuing underachievement, poverty, resentment, and divisiveness. So, too, does the willy-nilly emergence of bilingualism in the US. No language in American history has ever before competed with English to the point where one daily hears, on the telephone, "If you want to speak English, press one; ."